Comprehensive Aquatic Systems Model – Sacramento Delta

Ducks swimming on the Sacramento Delta

Cardno provides technical support in the development and application of the comprehensive aquatic systems model (CASM) to assess the anticipated outcomes of ecosystem management and restoration.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a complex environmental and human-dominated ecosystem inhabited by key ecological resources, including the federally listed Delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus). The system is rich in infrastructure and interwoven by complex policy aimed at delivering water for agricultural and municipal uses. Economic development and associated historical alterations in land-use throughout the Delta have combined to imperil the Delta smelt and impair the function of this unique and valued ecosystem.

Cardno collaborated with Dynamic Solutions LLC, Louisiana State University, and San Francisco State University in developing a version of the CASM to simulate productivity by phytoplankton and zooplankton in the estuary. The purpose was to apply the resulting model to inform alternative water resource management actions in support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Sacramento District.

Cardno provided technical support in developing, applying, and evaluating the CASM for the Sacramento Delta, including:

  • Working with project participants in defining the food web structure of lower trophic levels for the model
  • Collating and analyzing data necessary for estimating the bioenergetics growth parameters for specified populations of phytoplankton and zooplankton included in the food web
  • Assembling available lower trophic level biological productivity data for calibration of the Delta CASM
  • Guiding project participants in the calibration of the model and corresponding evaluation of model performance in simulating phytoplankton and zooplankton productivity in the Delta
  • Exploring approaches for integrating the Delta CASM with models of Delta smelt population dynamics.

Cardno continues to offer the CASM as an effective simulation platform for assessing aquatic ecological risks posed by environmental stressors, as well as projecting the risks and benefits of aquatic ecosystem management and restoration. More recently, the model has been used for estimating injury to aquatic systems in support of Natural Resource Damage Assessments.